How to Cope with Hills
This tip was inspired by the Race the Rattler event, I and lots of Lazy Runners ran on Monday. Race the Rattler is a race against a steam train, in Gympie. It is 18.5km of hills, that’s it hills! Paddock hills, road hills, gravel hills, dirt hills, you name it all types of hills. Ok, I can hear you saying ‘wow then there must be plenty of great downhill running as well’, somehow the downhill side never seems to take the pain away or compensate from the uphill side, and of course whilst you are running down, you can have a good look at the next climb coming your way!
This was the third time I had entered this race, so I knew what I was in for. I’ve run marathons and half marathons, so the distance was not going to be a problem, and the hills are not going anywhere, so it’s just a matter of getting over them. But what never ceases to amaze me in this race are the runners who walk up the hills. Some runners were walking up the first hill for goodness sake, not even attempting to run the first few. A lot of runners were proudly wearing half marathon and marathon
t shirts (recent ones I may add) and they were walking up the hills, what gives? You can run a marathon; you can run a half marathon, why can’t you run 18.5km.
I’m not saying it’s an easy race, in fact it is very tough, but if you have trained yourself and can run up to a half marathon there is no excuse in world why you can’t run a hilly 18.5km.
Like a lot of things in running it is mental, your legs will run up that hill if you tell them too, you are just not giving the right orders
Here some tips for running up hills.
Look ahead to about 20-30metres in front of you when running up a hill and try not to shift your gaze. Now I didn’t say look down, as you know that is a big no, no in running, just with your eyes look ahead to the ground maybe 20 metres in front. You don’t want to look to the very top of the hill as that will just make it all look too big and hard, but chipping away at each 20-30metres will get you up to the top in sections. If you don’t even want to see 20metres in front- do this, look away to the side. For me it’s an out of sight out of mind thing, if I am looking at the view to the left or right, it almost feels like I’m not on a hill...almost... I said!
Shorten your stride, don’t slow it just shorten it. Small strides will get you to each 20-30metre point more comfortably than big strides.
Lean into the hill slightly, but keep your body straight. We tend to roll our shoulders and get stooped running up a hill. This isn’t good for your back and it also prevents you getting a good flow of oxygen into your system, and is often why your breathing becomes more laboured
Learn to Love Hills- sounds crazy but if you say you hate hills, they will be mean to you. If you embrace the hill, say you love it, talk yourself up and over it. All the way up a hill I’m saying things like ‘nearly at the top’ ‘Good girl” ‘It’s not so bad’ ‘I may be running slowly, but at least I am still running' Remember you are saying this in your head, so no one can hear or take offence! It’s far better to talk this way, then to keep saying ‘this is so hard’ ‘I’m hating this’ ‘I have to walk’. Also tell yourself, the hill is not going anywhere, it is an immovable force, you have to get over it, you can do it the hard way by grumbling and moaning, and walking or you can get over it quicker by running and not whinging
Recovering from the Climb- Another amazing thing about the Race the Rattler the other day, was the rabbit and tortoise mentality on the hills. I passed so many people on my slow crawls up the hill because they were walking and then off they went down the other side like a billy cart passing me, then of course I passed them heading up the other side. This went on for most of the race with the group of runners I was with...but I did notice that by the last 3km, I had passed all those rabbits and I did beat all the little group I was with home. I think it was because, my pace was consistent, and I stuck to running so I still had the confidence in the end to run strong.They however, were getting exhausted by their erratic pace all the way through, walking up and speeding down the hills was using all their energy. All the way we could also read each other on the hills and I think in the end it was the mental strength that won through on the last couple of kms. I honestly believe that everytime you walk in a race it chips away at you mentally, and at the end even if your ran 99% or the way, you are still haunted or frustrated by the 1% walk. When you run all the way to the top of a hill, give yourself a reward and go into recovery mode, start to jog down the hill slow and strong, get some nice deep breaths into your lungs and spend a little time recovering and enjoying the view. Unfortunately we are not like push bikes, that can zoom down a hill and then go halfway up the next hill without even touching the pedals...runners have to touch the pedals as soon as they get to the bottom of a hill. So make sure you have fully recovered by the bottom, ready to launch your assault on the next hill. If you run down a hill too fast, you will find you haven’t the energy or strength to get all the way up the next one
Train on Hills- Like all things in running once you train and get used to something you are fine. Remember when you couldn’t run 5km and you did, then you thought how could I ever run 10km and you did, then it was half marathons and then maybe marathons...all of this was done by simple persistence and training. Well hills are the same. The body will soon adapt to any pressure you put it under. So once you start training on hills it will soon adapt, and when you do encounter hills in a race, you body won’t jack up and say no way, it will just do what it’s used to and run over them. The Mooloolaba runners run up Alex Hill some Saturdays (about 500metre hill) and I never hear them complain about it (of course I wouldn’t listen if they did). When I am coming behind them I see them running normally chatting away, just like they are on the flat, it is such a part of their run now it’s not a problem. So I suggest once a week run on a hilly course.
Ask Yourself Why?..If you find you always have to walk when it comes to a hill or part of a hill, don't just accept it, ask yourself why. What is the reason...are your legs sore? are you out of breath?, are you not used to hills? are you just plain Lazy, do you have negative thoughts?...find out why and work on that one reason to overcome it
Push Through- I use this mentality on all my beginner runners and it can also be used on any running challenge we have no matter how far and well we think we can run. When you want to stop the first time, Don’t...keep running; when you want to stop the second time, Don’t...keep running; when you want to stop the third time, Stop...walk for a minute and then start running again. When I saw the runners the other day in Race the Rattler , I knew when they were on the hill they were walking the first time they felt like it. You need to push through the feeling and keep running, that way you will get a little further up the hill. The second time you think you can’t go on, keep going, once again you push through and that gets you a little further, it may even get you to the top. When it happens for the third time, walk for one minute only (time yourself) and then start to run, don’t give in on the third one and just walk to the top. If you stop every time you feel like stopping it means you haven’t pushed though and next time you want to stop you will again, and again. However, if you push through a couple of times, then it was a little win for you and next time you will get further up that hill.
Ok Here it is all in Brief...How to cope on a hilly run
-Look ahead to 20-30 metres in front
-Take shorter steps
-Maintain Correct Posture
-Positive Talk-‘you love that hill!”
-Train on Hills
-Use the downhill as recovery
-When you want to walk..don’t...Push through
-If you have to walk, only one minute and then run again
For Heaps More Tips on Everything about Running- Click Here...Running Tips